MOVING ON: Outgoing principal of Scots PGC College, Michael Harding.
MOVING ON: Outgoing principal of Scots PGC College, Michael Harding. Contributed

Principal’s talents difficult to replace

AFTER more than nine years at the helm of Scots PGC College, Michael Harding announced his resignation at the college speech day ceremony last Friday.

Mr Harding leaves to take up an educational leadership role within Carinity - a (Baptist) church-based organisation in Brisbane - supporting schools specifically set up to cater for disadvantaged or disengaged students, as well as progressing the development of new services and schools.

Doug Cosh, chair of college council said: "As chair of the Scots College Council, I had my most difficult job to date last Friday announcing the resignation of our principal of nine years to those assembled for our annual speech day ceremony.

"Mr Michael Harding has done an outstanding job over the past nine years, driving and overseeing many significant changes to the college in that time. His professional and personal skills will be hard to replace.

"I and my fellow members of the college council wish him well in his future career. It is however very reassuring to know that we have a strong leadership team that will be headed by Mr Ben Manifold while we seek to fill the position left by Mr Harding."

Mr Harding will certainly be missed by the students, parents and staff at Scots. Appointed at a challenging time of the college's long history, Mr Harding immediately set about initiating some necessary changes in the management and culture of the college, which resulted in a period of steady enrolment growth and improvements in student outcomes.

The last decade has been a period of significant change in education across Australia, with the introduction of the Australian Curriculum as well as a rapidly evolving interface between education and information technology.

Mr Harding has overseen this change with clear vision and a steady hand, resulting in the college's current one-to-one laptop program in Years 7-12, Learning Management System, on-line unit planning and interactive whiteboards in just about every classroom.

Although he was not appointed to oversee a building program, nevertheless significant improvements in physical resources have also been seen during Mr Harding's term as principal.

Most notably, this included the building of the Wilf Arthur Learning Enrichment Centre, as part of the Federal Government's Building the Education Revolution program.

It also saw a very significant refurbishment of the girls' boarding houses, as well as the re-building of the boys' (Cunningham House - Finlay wing) boarding house which was destroyed by fire in 2009.

Additionally, Mr Harding was responsible for the relocation of the Scots PGC Junior School, from Locke Street to the Oxenham Street campus, into a new state-of-the-art precinct.

Mr Harding has been a champion of two of the college's flagship activities - the pipes and drums, and also the equestrian program. Both have flourished during his time, with the band producing a steady stream of outstanding young musicians and the equestrian team taking out the Queensland champion school award for the past six years.

Similarly, Mr Harding made sure that school life provided opportunities for every student to experience success, especially in Years 11 and 12.

During his tenure, the Vocational Education and Training options at Scots came to be seen as a valid and equally valuable alternative pathway for students who did not wish to pursue tertiary education.

These students now follow a highly regarded parallel stream which sees them out of the classroom, in the workplace or other training environment for two days each week.

More than anything, Mr Harding will be remembered within the college community as a warm and approachable leader, who insisted that schools should put students first.

He frequently reminded the staff that, to use a dental analogy, "on the end of every tooth is a patient".

Thus he would encourage us to treat each student as an individual, and to make sure that we looked past the (sometimes objectionable) behaviour to discern what was actually going on in the student's life.

An extensive search for a new principal will start shortly. In the interim, college deputy principal Ben Manifold will be acting principal for at least term one of 2014.

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